CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Civic Center will be unusually quiet following January's gubernatorial inauguration.
For the first time in more than 30 years, the city's largest event space will not host the governor's inauguration ceremony. The party instead will be held a few blocks east, in the Clay Center.
The event will begin at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, according to "save the date" cards mailed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's inauguration committee this week.
John Robertson, the Civic Center's general manager, said he had "absolutely no idea" why Tomblin chose to move the event. He said the Civic Center has hosted every governor's inaugural party since Sen. Jay Rockefeller's second term in 1981.
Losing the event probably will cost the Civic Center around $150,000. Robertson said most governors have rented the entire facility, including the Coliseum and Grand Hall, and also use the Civic Center's catering services.
"We've done as many as 4,000 to 6,000 people, depending on the inaugural," he said.
Robertson said a governor's second inaugural party is usually a smaller affair than his first.
Tomblin did not host an inauguration celebration following his swearing-in last November, but January's affair is certain to be a much smaller event than previous gubernatorial parties.
Robertson said Sen. Joe Manchin's first inaugural party drew close to 6,000 attendees.
The Clay Center can hold only about 2,000 people.
"They're going to use basically every space we have," said Clay Center spokeswoman LeAnn Dickens.
That includes the facility's main stage, its smaller Walker Theater, the ticketing lobby, the grand lobby outside its performance hall, the art galleries and even its Avampato Discovery Museum, a 12,000-square-foot science museum.
Only the Clay Center's planetarium will remain unused.
Dickens said Tomblin's inauguration committee asked if the Clay Center could support 2,000 attendees: 500 tickets available to the general public, plus 1,500 invitations. The Clay Center checked with the Charleston Fire Marshall's office, which approved the space for a little more than 2,000 people.
Robertson said he learned the Civic Center would not host next year's party through a voicemail from Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Schuler-Goodwin. He said Goodwin offered to explain the governor's decision.
"There's no sense in me calling back. They've made their decision. I may not agree with it . . . but we're not in a position to contest it," he said.
Goodwin said the decision to move the event ultimately came down to the governor and first lady Joanne Tomblin, but she did not know why they decided against the Civic Center.
"I know that it was something they wanted to do. I know the Civic Center has hosted and has been a showcase for many wonderful events. We love everything they do. To that respect, the Clay Center is also a beautiful building and a crown jewel of the city of Charleston," she said.